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Judaism is the religious practices and beliefs and the way of life of the Jews. It began as a religious conviction of the diminutive nation of the Hebrews. The followers of the religion have through the thousands of years since its inception been persecuted, dispersed and faced intense suffering physically and psychologically (Lynch1).
Occasionally, the religion has experienced victory. It continues to have intense influence on culture and religion. In the world today, the religion has a following of more than 14 million people (Judaism1). They identify themselves as Jewish. Contemporary Judaism is a complex occurrence that involves both religion and a nation.
The history is written in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). The first five books of the Bible describe the emergence of Jews. There is the description of the choice of God on Jews to be the living example for other humans to emulate.
The Hebrew Bible explains how the relationship between Jews and God worked. God chose Abraham be the father figure of a populace that would be unique to God. They would be a mark and symbol of holiness and good behavior to the entire world (BBC1). History asserts that the Jewish people were guided by God through many challenges and troubles.
During the time of Moses, God gave the Jewish people life guidelines that they should live with. These included the Ten Commandments. This was the period which the Judaism emerged as a structure religion. Under the guidance of God, the Jews turned into powerful communities with renowned kings such as Solomon, David and Saul (BBC 1).
The construction of the first great temple by Solomon made the Jews to focus the worship of God in the temple. The temple housed the Ark of the Covenant. It was the only place where rituals would be carried out. In 920 BCE, the Jewish kingdom disintegrated and the people tore into small groups. Many Jews were exiled into Babylon.
This was the beginning of the Jewish culture in the Diaspora. Majority of the Jews in exile opted not to return to Israel. The next 300 years that followed were marked by gradual and steady growth in Jewish strength and number. Their land was in the mean time being governed by foreign authorities. The teachers and scribes who emerged during this period helped the population to interpret and explain the Bible.
The Jews from then were able to freely practice their faith. In 175 BCE, there was a Jewish revolt against the Syrian King who implemented a number of rules that sought to completely wipe out Judaism. He dishonored the temple and wanted the population to worship Zeus. The temple was eventually restored after the revolt which is celebrated by Jews in the Hanukah festival.
The Romans took advantage of the weakening of the Jewish kingdom due to internal splitting up and established their rule. This was followed by years of oppression and taxation by Roman rules who despised Judaism. The Sadducees became allies of the Roman rulers subsequently loosing the support and faith of the Jews. The people opted to have Pharisees as their teachers (BBC1).
The Catholic encyclopedia suggests that Judaism was the original of a variety of religions including Islam and Christianity (Judaism 1). The Jewish people established settlements in Arabia before the birth of Mohammed. They commanded considerable influence on the Arabian citizenry. At one point in South Arabia, the Jews had an Arab-Jewish empire which was eventually terminated by a king of Abyssinia in 530.
The Jews lost the royal estate but remained considerably powerful in the northern Yemen. In Mecca, there was a small Jewish population. Mohammed interacted with the Jews and became acquitted with the religion. When he fled to Medina, the acquaintance became and more established as the location was populated by Arabian Jews.
Abraham was the first Jew according to religious Jews. He was the first to preach monotheism and despised idolatry. As a reward, he was promised to have many children by God. This promise fulfillment came in the form of Isaac. Isaac carried on Abraham’s work and inherited Canaan. Isaac’s son, Jacob, was sent to Egypt by God together with his children. They were eventually enslaved by Egyptians. Moses was subsequently sent to Egypt to redeem the Jews from slavery.
This period was tempting to Moses who eventually gave the Torah to the Jews. He managed to take the people to Israel after many years in the jungle. Torah is the Hebrew translation of instruction or teaching particularly law. It refers to the first five books of the Old Testament. On a larger scale, Torah is used by Jews to refer the broad range of commanding Jewish religious wisdom in history (Space and motion 1).
In view of the first five books of the Bible, many ideas and concepts are expressed in form of stories as opposed to being listed as laws. The book of Deuteronomy is reiteration of the previously mentioned laws in the first four books. Most of the laws that govern Judaism are got from textual clues because they are not mentioned straightforwardly in the Torah. The Torah is the fundamental document of the Jewish religion. In a principled framework, it is the basis of all the biblical commandments.
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The period covering 1000 CE saw Jews establish themselves in Spain. They co-existed happily with the Islamic rulers. They developed a thriving study of Hebrew literature, science and the Talmud. There was severally the attempt to convert all the Judaism followers to Islam.
When all this failed, the millennium that followed saw the increased operations of military by Christian states to recapture the holy land. In German, the Christian armies attacked Jewish communities. They succeeded in capturing Jerusalem where thousands were slaughtered and many other enslaved. The victims included Muslims and Jews. Jews were banned from entering the city just like Romans had previously done. In the meantime, the Jewish population was increasing in Britain. They enjoyed the protection by Henry I.
The Babylonian exile presented new ideas to Jews. It is during this period that the notions of particular angels arose. Evil was personified as Satan. The idea of resurrection from the dead emerged (Neusner2). Alexander the Great played a significant role in entrenching the idea of immortality of the soul.
The level of Hellenization brought about conflict within the Jewish community. The Maccabees revolted against the Syrian Seleucid rulers. There was extensive martyrdom that increased the momentum to the notion of collective resurrection of the deceased. The soul was perceived to be immortal. They formulated the belief that while the physical body awaited resurrection, the soul existed in another realm (Seltzer6).
Life conditions deteriorated and apocalyptic beliefs increased. Messianic kingdom and national catastrophe were considered imminent. As time passed, Rabbanic Jews completed the process of replacing the Temple with the Synagogue. The Rabbanical Judaism arose from the Pharasiac movement as a response to the destruction of the Second Temple (Smith 1).
This was in a move to codify and redact oral law. The Rabbis wanted to interpret the practices and concepts of Judaism in the absence of the Temple and the people being in exile. It dominated the Jewish religion close to 18 centuries. In the process, it developed the Midrash, the Talmud and the great icons of the medieval philosophies.
In 1492, Jews were expelled from Spain which led to Sephardic influence of South France, North Italy and the Levant. There was the Berber invasion and anti-Jewish incidents became common in Europe (BBC1). Jews had been forced to take up Christianity. However, they continued to secretly practice their religion. Eventually, majority emigrated and returned to the Jewish fold. The 18th century remained largely turbulent with hardening of the Jews as a reaction to philosophical liberalism and Sabbatianism.
The first five books of the Bible describe the emergence of Jews. Under the guidance of God, the Jews turned into powerful communities with renowned kings such as Solomon, David and Saul. The emergence of Judaism in the Diaspora was as result of being exiled. Alexander the Great played a significant role in entrenching the idea of immortality of the soul.
There was extensive martyrdom that increased the momentum to the notion of collective resurrection of the deceased.Contemporary Judaism was split by the law (halakal) in the 19th century. Orthodox Jews maintain the traditional practice while Reform Jews only uphold rituals that they believe will God-oriented, Jewish life.
The attempt to define the essence of Judaism is a process that has existed for ages. At anyone point, there is intense emphasis on one aspect of the three major concepts of the Jewish religion (God, Israel, Torah).
BBC. “Judaism at a glance”. Web.
Lynch, Damon. “Judaism. There we sat down”. June. 1972. Web.
Smith, Huston. “Judaism: Religion facts”. Web.
Seltzer, Robert. Jewish people, Jewish thought:the Jewish experience in history. London, UK: Macmillan, 1980.
Spaceandmotion. “Theology: Judaism.History and Main Beliefs of Jewish Religion / the Jews”. Web.